It’s easy to find yourself surrounded by negative people.
Sometimes it’s in your personal life with friends and family.
Other times it’s at work. In fact, it can often be at work especially with different personalities, interests and values.
If possible, I think it’s best to avoid negative coworkers all together. But sometimes that’s not entirely possible.
Here are a few tactics for dealing with, working with and sometimes avoiding negative coworkers.
The first step is to identify who the negative people are. You probably know, but sometimes they’re so good at sucking you in that you don’t even realize that you’re engaging.
And that’s a big key to these situations. You don’t want to engage because the negativity can affect your performance, your ability to move up and it can go home and affect your personal life.
Go through all the interactions you have in a typical day, week and month at work. Identify each of the people you interact with regularly and assess their behavior and attitude.
If they’re negative and toxic, it’s time to take action and control what you control.
2. Bring Positivity
I follow professional golf a little bit.
One of the most interesting characters is Dustin Johnson.
He sometimes gets a little flack for being laid back. Some look down on him because they think he’s so laid back because he’s not very smart.
I don’t know him personally, but from watching interviews and the way he speaks I actually think he’s smart in the general sense, but also smart in the emotional intelligence area.
He never seems to talk negative. About people. About situations. He just lives and let lives.
I can’t remember if it was a podcast or what, but the person was talking about time they spent with Dustin and how another player came up and talked about a bad lie or a bad rule and Dustin just shrugged. No big deal.
Another player came up and talked negative about another golfer. Dustin shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I think he’s a good guy.”
End of conversation.
Dustin brings positivity to life it seems. I can’t say he does it all the time, but all evidence seems to be that he likes being the positive guy in most situations.
You can do the same. Especially if you have to work with negative people. If you’re always positive they’ll often stop bringing their negative talk to you and you may be able to get them to change their focus.
3. Don’t Engage The Negative Talk
You could also say that Dustin Johnson just doesn’t engage in the negative talk. He brings positivity, but you don’t even have to go that far.
You can just remove yourself from the conversation. Just go silent. Change the conversation.
Often the person that is talking negative is looking for validation. They may also be looking to make themselves feel good by bringing others down.
But I think more often they want to feel proud about identifying something negative.
If you engage and validate they’ll do it more. If you don’t engage there is a good chance they won’t continue the behavior. At least not with you. They’ll get their validation elsewhere.
When they say, “Isn’t Suzy the worst? She never gets in on time.”
Just ignore. You don’t have to justify that type of comment.
4. Over-Engage The Negative Talk
This might be for you if you like being the sarcastic one. This won’t work for everybody, but I’ve read some studies about it and it seems to be a strategy that often works.
Now when your coworker says, “Isn’t Suzy the worst…”
You respond with, “I know. She should be fired.”
When you way over the top it can often make the person realize their negative behavior. I’ve tried this on occasion and more often than not the person will say something like, “Well, she’s not that bad. She does good work. Maybe she has some kind of struggle at home.”
Be careful with this one. I would say it’s only for certain situations, but you could try it if the previous two tips don’t work.
5. Distance Yourself Entirely
Sometimes you’re just not going to be able to win with people. Your behavior won’t change theirs. They keep bringing their negativity to you and it’s affecting your life.
If you’re in a situation where you’re partners or something you may have a big struggle. The only option may be to talk to the boss about it. Try to get a new partner.
Or if it’s serious enough it may be time to look for a new job.
If it’s that bad, what other choice do you have?
You can’t sit around and wait for the person to change. They won’t. People don’t change.
It’s easy to get pulled into somebody’s negative force field. Every time you validate and engage it just reaffirms that they’re doing something right and they’re going to keep doing it and probably double down on the behavior. You have to focus on what you control, which is your response. It won’t guarantee that they will change, but it may improve your interactions with them and your well being as a result.